Archive for March, 2017

Rice Named CVSR 2016 Volunteer of Year

March 31, 2017

Alan Rice has been named the 2016 Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad volunteer of the year.

Rice, who works on CVSR trains as a conductor and brakeman joined the CVSR in June 2009.

He has contributed more than 7,800 hours including 1,494.5 last year.

An active member of the CVSR Volunteer Association, he is the treasurer and a member of the communications and education committees.

Rice helped revise the volunteer policies and procedures manual and has presented at continuing education events for volunteers.


New Bridge Being Eyed At Bort Road

March 31, 2017

The old one-lane Bort Road bridge over the CSX tracks near North East, Pennsylvania, may be replaced with a more modern span.

Officials in North East Township are pushing state officials to approve funding for a longer bridge that would also cross over the Norfolk Southern tracks.

They have asked the state to add a new Bort Road bridge to the region’s Transportation Improvement Program, which would make it a priority for state transportation funding.

The proposed Bort Road bridge would be east of the existing structure on land now owned by grape farmer Nick Mobilia.

He has agreed to trade two acres of his Concord vineyard to the township for the land on which the bridge now sits.

Planners say the low elevation of the NS tracks, which cross Bort Road at grade, make it impractical to locate the new bridge on the footprint of the current bridge.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has completed a study of a new bridge that estimated a replacement would cost $7 million.

Gus Neff, chairman of the North East Township Board of Supervisors, said all that needed now is funding.

The PennDOT study found that about 400 vehicles a day cross the Bort Road bridge. The wood deck is deteriorating and is limited to vehicles weighing 8 tons or less.

Township officials say the bridge is important for farmers and that a new bridge could be a second route over the railroad tracks for emergency vehicles.

Building a new bridge is not the only option, the PennDOT study found.

Two other options involve razing the bridge and either routing traffic routed to an enhanced grade crossing of both railroads at Remington Road or a building a bridge carrying Remington Road the tracks.

The War of Words Continues in Site Selection Process for New Amtrak Station in Buffalo

March 31, 2017

A decision on a site for a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, is not expected until late April, but it appears that a site in the Canalside neighborhood has been ruled out.

The Canalside site was not included in the list of sites that were studied by a consulting firm.

Some city officials say that Canalside was dropped from active consideration because inter-city buses could not be adequately accommodated there.

In the meantime, a New York congressman who has strongly supported renovating the former Central Terminal has attacked the consultant’s report for what he termed grossly inflated costs for that site.

Rep. Brian Higgins took issue with findings that returning passenger rail service to Central Terminal would cost between $68 million to $149 million, depending on the level of service provided and whether the facility would also serve local and inter-city buses.

Higgins said the costs could be cut by $6 million by giving up unnecessary improvements to the terminal concourse. Another $1.4 million could be saved by eliminating some elevators.

Higgins contends that renovating Central Terminal could be eligible for nearly $11.8 million in tax credits under state and federal programs for the renovation of historic properties.

Saying some members of the 17-member station selection committee don’t like the neighborhood around Central Terminal, Higgins accused them of trying to price Central Terminal out of contention.

At least one station site selection committee member has expressed doubt that Central Terminal is an appropriate site for a modern, intermodal transportation center.

Some committee members, who would not agreed to be named, believe Higgins is trying to hijack the station selection process.

Eugene Berardi Jr., president of Adirondack Trailways, said it would be difficult for buses to serve Central Terminal because of the low underpasses on the streets near the station.

He also said bus passengers want to be dropped off downtown to access Metro Rail and other public transportation.

Supporters of a downtown location say that an intermodal facility would be eligible for Federal Transit Administration funds as well as Federal Railroad Administration funding.

The consultant’s report lists three possible downtown sites for the new station:

  •  The site of the existing Amtrak station on Exchange Street
  •  A site just west of the existing station, nearer to Washington Street
  •  A site at Washington Street just south of the I-190

Support for Central Terminal has come from another source. Twenty-five architects have signed  a letter backing the Central Terminal as the site for a new Buffalo train station.

“This is about a lot more than where to put a train platform,” said Robert Stark, president of the American Institute of Architects, New York State, and a partner with CJS Architects in Larkinville, New York.

3 Bids Received for Schenectady Station Phase I

March 31, 2017

Three bids have been submitted for the proposed new Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York.

All of the bids appear to be within the $6 million budget for the station.

The bidders were seeking to perform the first phase of the project, which includes razing the current station and doing concrete and structural work around the station platform and tracks.

That work is expected to begin this spring once a winning bidder is chosen by the New York State Department of Transportation.

It is the second time that bids have been submitted for the station work.

Last year one bid for the project came in $10 million over budget. State officials decided to break the station project into two phases.

The budget for the project is $15 million, most of which is from federal funding.

The project timeline calls for demolition of the station to be completed this year. Amtrak is constructing a temporary boarding platform at Liberty Street.

The contract for construction of the permanent station is expected to go out for bid this fall with construction starting in 2018.

The new station is expected to resemble the former Union Station, which was razed years ago. The current Amtrak station opened in 1979.

About 60,000 passengers per year board Amtrak at Schenectady, but city officials believe the station could become busier after the opening of the Rivers Casino and Resort.

The city is served by the Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf, Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express and Empire Service trains.

NS May be Planning New Painesville Bridge

March 31, 2017

Norfolk Southern train No. 206 rattles the trestle over the Grand River in Painesville in 2014.

Norfolk Southern appears to be taking steps that might result in the building of a new bridge over the Grand River in Painesville.

Akron Railroad Club member Ed Ribinskas reports that in recent weeks crews have been out putting in small flags and markers that point toward building a new bridge south of the existing single-track trestle.

Crews have also been removing trees and brush on both banks of the river valley.

Known as a steel stringer bridge, the current trestle was built by the Nickel Plate Road and is now part of the NS Lake Erie District.

Ed said that based on the location of the flags in the ground, the single track would bend a little southward to cross the new bridge.

Fundraiser Set for Algoma Central Passenger Service

March 31, 2017

A fundraising campaign to help kick start the return of rail passenger service to the Algoma Central Railway will be held on April 6.

Sponsored by the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains, the event will have folk music and a silent auction at the Algoma Water Town Inn & Suites in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Proceeds of the event will be used to support the efforts of the Missanabie Cree First Nation to create a non-profit passenger train between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst that would be named the “Mask-wa Oa-ta-ban” or “Bear Train.”

Service on the route ended in 2015 when funding from the Canadian government dried up. The Algoma Central is today part of Canadian National.

Osborn Yard Hump to Close

March 31, 2017

Hump operations at a third CSX yard are set to close. This time it is Osborn Yard in Louisville, Kentucky.

Earlier this week CSX said it would end hump operations at Stanley Yard in Toledo. Before that the railroad said it would end humping at Tilford Yard in Atlanta.

Flat switching will continue at Osborn Yard, which is a former Louisville & Nashville facility located south of downtown Louisville.

A CSX spokeswoman said the moves are part of an effort to make rail operations more efficient by enabling workers to more quickly process trains.

She said five jobs will be eliminated but Osborn will still have 470 employees.

Osborn is the hub of rail lines from Indianapolis; Evansville, Indiana; Cincinnati; and Nashville, Tennessee.

Chao Says Infrastructure Plan Will Cut Back Regulations, House Committee Approves Passenger Rail Legislation

March 31, 2017

It’s not the money it’s the red tape. Or so Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao wants everyone to believe is the reason why more isn’t being done to rebuild America’s infrastructure.

Speaking during an open house to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Chao said the Trump Administration’s infrastructure proposal that has yet to be delivered to Congress will include proposals to eliminate regulations.

“Investors say there is ample capital available, waiting to invest in infrastructure projects,” Chao said.” So the problem is not money. It’s the delays caused by government permitting processes that hold up projects for years, even decades, making them risky investments.”

Chao said the Trump infrastructure plan “will include common-sense regulatory, administrative, organizational and policy changes that will encourage investment and speed project delivery.”

Although she did not provide details, that infrastructure proposal will include a “a strategic, targeted program of investment valued at $1 trillion over 10 years,” Chao said.

She said the proposal will cover more than transportation infrastructure. It will also include energy, water and potentially broadband and veterans hospitals.

Public-private partnerships will be a focal point of the plan as a way to avoid “saddling future generations with massive debt.”

In an unrelated development, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure this week approved a bill involving passenger rail.

The committee reported out H.R. 1346, which repeals a rule titled “Metropolitan Planning Organization Coordination and Planning Area Reform.”

In a statement, the committee said the rule exceeds what is required in law, is contrary to congressional intent, and increases burdens on MPOs and states.

The committee said H.R. 1346 maintains MPO and state flexibility in planning and making transportation investments.

Also approved was H.R. 1093, which mandates the Federal Railroad Administration to notify Congress about any initiation and results of passenger and commuter rail comprehensive safety assessments.

Let the Posturing Begin: Trade Groups Jockey for Support in Washington in Wake of New Administration

March 31, 2017

With a new administration in Washington promising a renewed focus on transportation infrastructure the posturing from trade groups representing various segments of the railroad industry is in full swing.

The American Public Transportation Association is seeking to lobby Congress to fully fund the FAST Act for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 as well as include public transit in any infrastructure development plan.

The Association of American Railroads is seeking to caution the administration against taking too hostile of a stance on foreign trade by pointing out that at least 42 percent of rail traffic and more than 35 percent of annual rail revenue are directly tied to international trade.

APTA is reacting to the “skinny budget” proposed by President Donald Trump earlier this year that slashed funding for capital grants used by public transit.

In particular the Trump budget would greatly reduce the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants, TIGER grants and Amtrak funding.

APTA said it has conducted more than 60 meetings with congressional staff, focusing on those that serve on budget, appropriations, tax and authorization committees, and taken other proactive steps to engage with members of Congress.

It also has called on its members to meet with their members of Congress when they are on spring break in their home districts April 8-23.

As for the AAR, it released a report saying that 50,000 domestic rail jobs accounting for more than $5.5 billion in annual wages and benefits depend directly on international trade. Those numbers would be higher if rail traffic indirectly associated with trade is included.

AAR fears that the Trump administration might make policy changes that would adversely affect the global economy.

“Efforts that curtail overall trade would threaten thousands of U.S. freight-rail jobs that depend on it and limit essential railroad revenues used to modernize railroad infrastructure throughout North America,” said AAR President and CEO Edward Hamberger.

The AAR report examined rail movements using data from the 2014 Surface Transportation Board Waybill Sample, other government data and information from U.S. ports and Google Earth.

This included movements of coal for export from ports in Maryland, Virginia, the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes; paper and forest products imported from Canada into the Midwest, as well as paper products exported from the southern United States; imports and exports of Canadian and Mexican automotive products to and from auto factories in dozens of U.S. states; containers of consumer goods from Asia coming ashore in California, Washington, Georgia, Virginia and New Jersey; plastics shipped by rail from Texas and Louisiana to the East and West coasts for export to Europe and Asia; iron ore mined in Minnesota and shipped by rail to Great Lakes ports; and Midwest-grown grain carried by rail to the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf Coast for export.

NS Executive Train Passes Through NE Ohio

March 29, 2017

This past Tuesday the Norfolk Southern office car special came through northeast Ohio on its way to the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. The railfan community was out in force to document this move.

The top photograph was made in Alliance. The weather wasn’t great so I did mine in black and white. Next is the special at Canton in a photograph made by Michael Punzalan.

The final photograph was made at Lucas by Matt Arnold.

Article by Todd Dillon